Inflammation is a vital part of the body’s immune response. It is the body’s attempt to heal itself after an injury; defend itself against foreign invaders, such as viruses and bacteria; and repair damaged tissue.
The Good and The… Ugly.
Without inflammation, wounds would fester and infections could become deadly. It is often characterized by redness, swelling, warmth, and sometimes pain and some immobility. You actually need some level of inflammation in your body to stay healthy.
There are two types of inflammation: acute and chronic (sometimes called systemic) inflammation. Acute inflammation arises after a cut or scrape in the skin, an infected ingrown nail, a sprained ankle, acute bronchitis, a sore throat, tonsillitis or appendicitis. It is short-term and the effects subside after a few days.
Chronic inflammation is low-grade and systemic, often silently damaging your tissues. It can go on for years without you noticing, until a disease such as heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s or autoimmune diseases like multiple sclerosis, ulcerative colitis, crohn’s disease, or rheumatoid arthritis develops.
Underlying Causes of Chronic Inflammation.
Chronic inflammation can be the result of a mal-functioning, over-reactive immune system, or it may be due to an underlying problem that your body is attempting to fight off. Many of these “problems” are actually due to an unhealthy nutrition/lifestyle.
In his book, The Inflammation Syndrome, Jack Challem proposes that diet is primarily to blame for an increase in inflammatory illness. “The typical Western diet now contains at least thirty times (x30) more of pro-inflammatory nutrients than just a century ago,” he says. “As a result, people have become nutritionally and biochemically primed for powerful, out-of-control inflammatory reactions.”
The main underlying causes of chronic inflammation are:
- Excess weight
- Poor diet & dietary imbalances, such as an imbalance of essential fatty acids and/or inadequate antioxidant intake
- A sedentary lifestyle (no, or very little, exercise)
- An existing heart condition, hypertension, or hyperglycemia
- Diabetes that is controlled poorly
- Long-term infections
- Gum disease
- High levels of CRP – a marker or a cause?
Symptoms of Chronic Inflammation
If you answer yes to 3 or more of the following questions, you might be having chronic inflammation:
- Do you have elevated cholesterol or triglycerides?
- Do you smoke?
- Do you have diabetes?
- Do you have high blood pressure, asthma, or colitis?
- Are you overweight?
- Are you always craving carbohydrates?
- Are you constantly hungry?
- Are you tired, especially after exercise?
- Are your fingernails brittle?
- Are you constipated?
- Are you groggy upon waking?
- Do you have difficulty concentrating?
- Do you have headaches?
- Do you have numbness or tingling in your arms or legs?
- Do you eat meat, commercially baked sweets, fried foods, or use vegetable oil daily?
- Do you consume fish less than two times per week?
This is Your Body On Chronic Inflammation
10 Practical Tips for “Putting Out The Fire” Naturally
A recent study confirms that having very low levels of inflammation in your body is the most potent predictor for living beyond 100 years of age. So here are a few tips to help you live healthily ever after:
- Improve your hydration. Drink one-half of your body weight (pounds) in ounces of water daily. Minimize intake of other beverages.
- Avoid pro-inflammatory foods. This includes processed foods, fast foods, sugary foods and sweets, sodas, trans fats (and butter substitutes), fried foods, grains, and foods cooked at high temperatures.
- Boost your diet with anti-inflammatory foods. This includes green leafy and cruciferous vegetables, celery, beets, blueberries, pineapple, salmon, walnuts, coconut, chia seeds, turmeric, and ginger. Cruciferous vegetables include: Kale, Collard Greens, Mustard Greens, Watercress, Bok Choy, Arugula, Brussels sprouts, Turnip, Cabbage, Kohlrabi, Broccoli, and Cauliflower.
- Optimize your insulin levels. If your fasting insulin level is not lower than 3, consider limiting or eliminating your intake of grains and sugars until you optimize your insulin level.
- Optimize your vitamin D levels. Practice safe sun exposure. That’s your best bet to increase your vitamin D and boost your immunity.
- Incorporate proper eating habits. Serve yourself small portions. Regularly under-eat. Stop eating prior to feeling full. Eat slowly and chew thoroughly. Eat in silence. Eat mostly a plant-based diet. Stay as raw and low sugar as possible. Practice food rotation and follow the colors of the rainbow when selecting ingredients for your meal. Stop eating around 6:00-7:00PM.
- Incorporate movement into your daily routine. Exercise, when done regularly over the long term, decreases chronic inflammation.
- De-stress. Stress aggravates inflammation. Incorporate breathing awareness exercises and mindfulness techniques into your daily routine.
- Get plenty of rest. If you are not getting at least 7-8 hours of restful sleep at night, you are depriving your body of properly repairing and restoring. This alone will intensify chronic inflammation.
- Supplement your diet with ant-inflammatory herbs such as:
- Turmeric: Extensive research over the past half century has shown that curcumin, a component of turmeric, can modulate multiple cell signaling pathways. Extensive clinical trials over the past quarter century have addressed the pharmacokinetics, safety, and efficacy of this nutraceutical against numerous diseases in humans. Some promising effects have been observed in patients with various pro-inflammatory diseases including cancer, cardiovascular disease, arthritis, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, irritable bowel disease, tropical pancreatitis, peptic ulcer, gastric ulcer, idiopathic orbital inflammatory pseudotumor, psoriasis, atherosclerosis, diabetes, lupus, and renal conditions, just to name a few.
- Tulsi and Rosemary: These two herbs are capable of modulating the transcription protein Nuclear Factor-kappa Beta (NfKB) which is a major inducer of inflammation.
- Boswellia: Also known as frankincense, this herb contains specific active anti-inflammatory ingredients, referred to as boswellic acids, that have been shown in studies to significantly reduce inflammation.
- Ginger: This herb has been shown in studies to have broad anti-inflammatory actions. It offers pain relief and it has stomach-settling properties. Fresh ginger works well steeped in boiling water as a tea or grated into vegetable juice.
- Evening Primrose, Black Currant and Borage Oils: These contain the essential fatty acid gamma linolenic acid (GLA), which is useful for treating arthritic pain. It is reasonable for many to take these as a supplement, particularly if you struggle with dry skin in the winter, as this is a strong indicator that you are deficient in these fats.